- by John Hawkins
- Published: 22 May 2012
Far too many times I’ve left home in near Artic conditions only to end up getting cooked when my efforts to stay warm have turned against me. Fortunately Ground Effect’s Baked Alaska, a between-seasons long-sleeve technical jersey, successfully straddles the line between controlling the wind chill factor and letting your perspiration do its cooling thing.
The inevitable change-of-season head cold that seems to catch me in its grasp each autumn had finally gone when the Baked Alaska arrived in the mail. Perfect timing. The forced week off the bike had seen all sorts of temperature variations in the weather from low teens to mid-twenties. I was pretty keen to avoid freshening my head cold by either failing to stay warm or by overheating, and the Baked Alaska looked like it would fit the bill.
While Aussies may joke about New Zealanders’ relationship to their sheep, the folks at Ground Effect have turned that close familiarity to their advantage in the materials selected for this jersey’s construction. Their slick technical Heatwave fabric combines a merino wool layer next to your skin with a polyester outer layer for fast evaporation. It certainly seemed to work: good for keeping the core warm, but without overheating you when the sun comes out. I could feel the material wicking away the sweat on the long steady climbs while doing hill repeats past Taronga Zoo in the early morning, and there was none of the itch and scratch I normally associate with having wool next to my skin.
The front of the jacket is in a contrasting colour and uses their soft shell WindFoil fabric to stop the wind from biting through your flesh on long fast descents. It has a “crinkly” feel in the hands, like it has a plastic layer built into the middle, but on the inside facing your skin is a soft polyester fleece. On the climbs the WindFoil breathed well. I felt no need to for extra ventilation on the hill repeats, although they’ve thoughtfully put in a long front centre zip to give you the option. Given that I’d normally don a rain jacket to stay warm, and then be forced to peel it off at the start of the first ascent, it proved a welcome change.
When descending, the WindFoil fabric came into its own. This is especially noticeable on the first long descent of my commute, as the climb up to the main road is only 200m and doesn’t really give me a chance to get properly warmed up before commencing a 7-8 minute 40-60km/hr descent. My arms were a little cool, but my torso was fine and the high collar added welcome extra insulation.
To test the companies claims about wool being low odour, I deliberately didn’t wash it midweek, and while I wouldn’t recommend that for hygiene reasons there was no smell when it finally went into the front-loader on Saturday morning.
The burnt orange and titanium grey colour scheme of the jersey I received would stand out reassuringly for cyclists mixing it with the notorious Sydney traffic without being obviously “hi-vis”. The jersey is also available in azure blue and jet black. At the back of the jersey are a pair of zip pockets with reflective piping. There’s plenty of room to fit your wallet, keys, phone, rain shell and building security cards. The back is nice and low to keep your lower back covered if you’re wearing non-bib knicks or baggy shorts. The only downside of this was that it showed up the inadequacies of my rain jacket which – compared to Ground Effect’s offerings – is on the short side. Riding during the flash-flood inducing deluges Sydney experienced in April left the bottom halves of the pockets saturated , but fortunately I had packed everything vulnerable in sealed sandwich bags. The rain jacket is showing its age, so I’m thinking this is a good excuse to take a look at Ground Effect’s rain shells.
Fit-wise, it’s not skin tight. It’s close enough to wick moisture away effectively, and doesn’t flap annoyingly in the slipstream. I’d describe it more as “fitted”. For reference, I’m a 185cm 80kg adult male, and the medium was a great fit. I’m not sure how big they build ‘em in NZ, but if you’re smallish on the stature scale you may find it a challenge to find an appropriate size, although if you’re female they do a similarly tasteful women’s apparel range with sizing adjusted accordingly.
While it’s not a full-on winter jersey, the Baked Alaska works very well indeed as a between-seasons top. It takes the bite out of the morning chill, while still dealing well with perspiration and cooling needs. You can layer above and below with jacket and thermals if required as the temperature drops, and the pockets are roomy enough to cope with stowing the extra layers when you need to peel them off.
+ WindFoil chest panel takes the bite out of the autumn chill (I’ve already decided I’ll be investing in a pair of Ground Effects’ WindFoil socks before winter starts in earnest).
+ Cosy high collar
+ Roomy pockets with accessible zippers
+ Merino and polyester works well to wick away perspiration
+ Long sleeves with thumb loops sewn in to help keep them in place
– The emergency tyre patch sewn into one of the pockets is cute, but gets in the way.
The Baked Alaska is available online directly from Ground Effect for $129
Ground Effect Baked Alaska (RRP $ 129.00)
Tags: Cycling Wear